People living near forest boundaries told to immunise dogs

The Forest Department has initiated efforts to check the spread of canine distemper virus from domestic/stray dogs to feline species in the three tiger reserves in the region.

The initiative follows an advisory from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

Western Tamil Nadu has three tiger reserves namely the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR)- spread over 958 sq km in Coimbatore; Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR) -spread over 1.41 lakh hectares, and the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve - spread over 321 sq km.

In the first place, veterinarians are conducting meetings to sensitise the field staff in the tiger reserves on the virus.

People living in the settlements inside the reserves and people residing closer to forest boundaries are being asked to get their dogs immunised against the virus.

Anamalai Tiger Reserve

In ATR, the field personnel were instructed by Field Director Rajiv K. Srivastava to visit the border villages in bicycles that were provided as part of the cycle squad initiative for patrolling and sensitising the villagers. Veterinarians pointed out that the virus present in dogs along the forest boundaries is likely to spread to wild dogs, jackals and hyena.

These wild animals drink water from wild streams and are likely to spread the same to tigers and leopards.

Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve

Forest department in Erode district has sounded an alert in the fringe villages. Forest watchers have been instructed to be on the lookout for dogs entering forests.

“Vaccinating domestic and stray dogs in fringe villages against the disease is under contemplation,” Field Director of STR, I. Anwardeen said.

Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

“Though not a single case was reported so far, we are not complacent,” Field Director of MTR, Raguram Singh said.

A campaign to immunise dogs and cats in the fringe areas of the reserve such as Masinagudy, Singara and Moyar has been intensified, he said. While domestic and stray dogs are being prevented from entering the core area, dog rescue teams have been pressed into service to trap dogs which stray into the reserve.

If any of the tigers, leopards or other animals belonging to the feline family is found dead, their vital parts will be sent for virology tests to the Institute in Chennai.

A register was being maintained to record outbreaks. Anti-poaching watchers were trained to keep a close watch over the animals and report without delay any abnormal changes in their behaviour.

(With inputs from D. Radhakrishnan in Udhagamandalam and R. Krishnamoorthy in Erode)